The Rotary Opioid Awareness Task Force continues the uphill battle that is to tackle the opioid crisis across North Fulton.

The group is “gearing up for the upcoming school year with various community partnerships in metro Atlanta.”

According to Co-Chair Dr. Kym Mwansa, the task force is “focusing on North Fulton area first.”

Mwansa attributed this decision to “local death statistics are the highest in the state.”

“This is the issue that I worry about for my kids,” said Co-Chair Judge Brian Hansford.

Mwansa recently met with 30 school officials, all from North Fulton to have a conversation.

She suggested “signs to look for when trying to recognize addiction, local statistics among the adolescent age group and the initial parental denial of ‘my child's not on drugs.’”

Mwansa highlighted that “the stress and pressure today's children are under to perform” has the potential to put children at risk of “coping with alcohol and drugs.”

Before she can work with schools to alleviate the crisis, Mwansa must overcome the hurdle of, “trying to get some local schools to admit we have a problem here.”

She stressed it “needs to be addressed in the schools as well as the homes.”

On June 26, the task force partnered with the city of Roswell to hold the first of three community events, The Opioid Crisis Forum.

According to Task Force Member and Rotarian Karen Schwank, “the room was packed.”

“The statistics concerning this epidemic are too incredible to ignore,” she said.

Dr. Mwansa and Judge Hansford hosted an expert panel which included Dr. Tommie Richardson of Georgia Behavioral Health Professionals; Pabel Troche of Roswell EMS Services; Debra Minneman, of Georgia Council on Substance Abuse; Graham Skinner of No Longer Bound and Kelly Moselle of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Certification Board of Georgia.

Schwank described Dr. Tommie Richardson’s description of this brain disease called drug addiction as “one of the most compelling moments of the evening.”

“Dr. Richardson made a fist, holding his four fingers over his thumb. This was to represent the brain. The area of the brain that serves addiction was the thumb. Our normal desire and need for food, water, air, and sex were the four fingers. He then shifted his thumb to be over the fingers.”

“This was an addicted brain. Our four desires and needs are no long prominent. The desire and need for the drug takes over all other life’s necessities,” said Dr. Tommie Richardson.

After the panel discussion, “Only One Time” debuted and the floor was open to questions and comments.

Roswell is part of “The Triangle,” which extends from the tip of Pauling County to the far end of Gwinnett County with the V into Fulton County at the I-20/I-75/I-85 connection.

Schwank recalled efforts to fight the opioid crisis began last year “when North Fulton Rotary Club President Mike Mudd, reached out to area Rotary Clubs to ask what actions their clubs were taking with the opioid epidemic.”

She recalled then President of Roswell Rotary, Lisa Carlisle, was among those to answer.

“One month after asking that single question, several North Fulton Clubs, including Roswell Rotary, were part of an alliance with local police, healthcare services, and school officials that formed the Rotary Opioid Task Force.’

“Only One Time,” a “shock and awe” PSA, according to Dr. Mwansa is “about the paths of two students-one that took drugs and one that sold drugs.”

ROATF plans on continuing to host these forums.

Its next steps are “to spread to Cobb and Gwinnett counties to bring metro community awareness.”

The task force also has goals “to address the local and state government to get their buy in on addiction awareness, prevention, and the collaboration of resources available in our areas,” according to Mwansa.

Those in need of help have the option to text “RHS” to 1-844-201-9946.

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